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Inbox: Draft prospects on the rise

Jim Callis answers fans' questions about baseball's future stars
May 11, 2017

Houston left-hander Seth Romero might have been the biggest wild card in the Draft, and now he's even wilder after getting kicked off the team. With improved stuff and conditioning, he had worked his way into the top 10 picks until the Cougars suspended him in early April for repeated

Houston left-hander Seth Romero might have been the biggest wild card in the Draft, and now he's even wilder after getting kicked off the team. With improved stuff and conditioning, he had worked his way into the top 10 picks until the Cougars suspended him in early April for repeated violations of university and athletic department policy. Romero returned after missing four starts and made three relief appearances before getting dismissed Tuesday.
From a stuff standpoint, it's hard not to love a left-hander with a 92-97 mph fastball, a sharp slider and a solid changeup. But a lot of teams have grave makeup concerns and it's unclear where or if Romero will fit in the first round. He probably makes the most sense for a club with multiple early picks.
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Kyle Wright, a Vanderbilt right-hander who entered the year dueling with Florida righty Alex Faedo for the distinction of being college baseball's best pitching prospect, struggled to locate his fastball and breaking pitches, and he wasn't using his changeup in the early part of the season. After Kentucky shelled him for seven runs in five innings on April 1, his ERA swelled to 5.59.
There wasn't anything wrong with Wright's stuff, highlighted by a 91-97 mph fastball and a hard curveball, and he has dominated since finding his command. He has allowed just five earned runs while striking out 44 in 38 1/3 innings (1.17 ERA) over his past five starts, reasserting his place near the top of the 2017 Draft.
As of now, I still think the Twins will take Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay with the No. 1 overall pick. Notre Dame High (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) right-hander Hunter Greene remains MLBPipeline's top-ranked prospect and is in Minnesota's mix, and so is Wright. A case could be made for Wright going first because he has a higher pitching ceiling than McKay and has a more diverse arsenal than Greene, and I'd be surprised if Wright got past the Rays at No. 4.

Kevin has a White Sox logo in his Twitter avatar and Chicago picks 11th overall, so I think I know why he's asking this question.
Coming into 2017, Vanderbilt outfielder Jeren Kendall and Faedo had a chance to be the top two selections in the Draft, but their springs haven't gone as well as expected. While Kendall still has the best all-around tools among college position players and has drilled a career-high 13 home runs, his 25 percent strikeout rate scares some clubs. Faedo's velocity was down early in the season as he recovered from arthroscopic surgery on both knees, though it has picked back up as of late.

I'm working on a new first-round projection for Friday and I don't think Kendall is going to crack the top 10. Most of the teams I talk to believe he's more likely to drop to the teens, and some wonder if he could drop even further in an attempt to get paid more by a team with multiple picks. Personally, I'd take Kendall in the 6-10 range because the tools are that good and he can still help a club win in several ways even if he strikes out 150 times per season.
On the other hand, Faedo might not get to the White Sox because his stuff has bounced back and teams always covet college pitchers. After McKay (who could get picked as a first baseman) and Wright come off the board, the next two options are North Carolina right-hander J.B. Bukauskas and Faedo. Bukauskas has better pure stuff and has performed better this spring, but Faedo is no slouch in either regard and has a better chance to be a starter.

Looking at MLBPipeline's Top 100 Draft Prospects list released a couple of weeks ago, the player who's not ranked in our top 15 who's most likely to climb into the first 10 picks is UCLA right-hander Griffin Canning. One of the few top college arms who has surpassed expectations this spring, he combines stuff and pitchability, and he could go as high as No. 6 to the Athletics.

Other players outside our top 15 who are generating some buzz as potential top-10 selections are Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger, Ballard High (Louisville, Ky.) outfielder Jordon Adell, Carlsbad (N.M.) High left-hander Trevor Rogers and UC Irvine outfielder/second baseman Keston Hiura.
How much has Indians left-hander Thomas Pannone increased his stock this season? He wasn't even listed among the Indians' Top 30 Prospects this past February but has now put up 51 1/3 consecutive innings without an earned run dating back to last season.
-- Brian H., Fremont, Ohio

Pannone hasn't allowed an earned run since giving up a first-inning homer to Royals outfield prospect Anderson Miller on Aug. 25 last year, and he has surrendered just one unearned run in 33 1/13 innings between high Class A and Double-A this season. He has yielded just 13 hits and 10 walks this year while fanning 45, and he now sports a career 3.19 ERA with 369 strikeouts in 343 2/3 pro innings.
Drafted out of a Rhode Island high school by the Cubs in the 33rd round in 2012, Pannone was a two-way player at the JC of Southern Nevada in 2013 before signing with the Indians for $120,000 as a ninth-rounder. He took off after making some delivery adjustments last year, though his dominance is hard to explain. Pannone works with a 90-92 mph and can throw strikes with a decent curveball and changeup, and while his stuff isn't overwhelming, hitters just don't seem to see his fastball.
Because he lacks a plus pitch and thrives based on deception, Pannone will have to prove himself at each level. He has handled every challenge so far, and while he's not a top-tier prospect, I suspect you'll see him on our Indians Top 30 when we update that list in July.

Jim Callis is a reporter for Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.